I am Carolyn Turbyfill. I believe the OLPC project is one of truly good intentions. It has also become a disruptive technology in a wonderful way.
Now there are two issues floating around the One Laptop Per Child community that have legitimately engendered debate.
- What is the proper product for the OLPC target customer?
- What distribution channel is the best way to get laptops to the target customer?
I'll make two points about product distribution based on my high-tech startup experience: You can compare National versus Local sales to Departmental versus Enterprise sales.
- The first Enterprise sale takes selling to multiple levels of an organization, takes at least 9 months, and needs to translate into purchases in the millions to recoup the cost of customer acquisition. You are selling to multiple departments at a signature authority that exceeds that of any manager whose department will actually use your department, so there will be a CXO signoff required (CIO, CFO, CEO).
Furthermore, all the big guys are in there competing with you, and if you are a little guy, never never assume that your product will win because it is the best thing technologically, that you will win on price, or purity of essence.
- Departmental sales can be achieved with the signature of one person (a director or less, and will be in the tens of thousands, and not millions of dollars.) You can be too small at first to attract big company antibodies (well funded sales teams, lobbyists, metoo buzzword compliant products rushed to market to fill a newly created market category).
I can recommend four sources more authoritative than my personal experience of eight years in developing countries:
- "Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered" Schumacher recommends smaller projects implemented locally with renewable resources as opposed to large bloated environmentally destructive projects that renders the "alleged" beneficiaries powerless to influence or be part of the change.
- "The Ugly American" A timeless classic, as true today as when it was written in 1958. Talks about small projects that would make a difference versus politically motivated, ethnocentrically conceived pork barrel projects imposed from afar with no benefit to the impoverished people for whom the aid is ostensibly intended.
- "The Tragedy of American Diplomacy" Williams was one of the first revisionists - who wrote history from government documentation as opposed to the official line. A relevant point in this book is that most U.S. foreign aid money actually goes to technology licenses back to U.S. companies.
- "One Straw Revolution" by Masanobu Fukouka. A major pioneer of sustainable agriculture who likes to say of himself that he has no knowledge, but his books illustrate that he at least has wisdom